Baking is my self-care

“I am rediscovering my love of baking today. I used to use it as self-care, and now I remember how soothing it is for me. I’m headed to a friend’s house later to shoot off some fireworks and gorge on delicious food!”
7/4/18 Facebook comment

This past week I’ve been thinking about how in the heck I’m supposed to follow such a heavy post about feminism and rejecting limitations. I’ve recently started several other posts on meaningful topics that I want to expound on, but they need a lot more time before they’ll be ready to publish. So in the meantime, here’s something a bit lighter! (I would have added the word “literally” to that sentence, but one of the things I’m going to talk about is pound cake which is the opposite of light fare!)

With a few exceptions (mostly holidays like Halloween and Christmas), I haven’t done much baking in the last couple of years. Granted, I’ve done quite a bit of other cooking (chili, of course, plus a lot of Whole30 recipes), but it’s just not the same. Looking back at my archives, I’ve been partial to pumpkin bread in the fall, but the last chocolate chip cookie recipe I posted was in February 2016. (I high recommend those brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookie bars.) Baking used to be a weekly activity that I truly enjoyed and soothed my soul. It was certainly a welcome distraction during Gator games in the college football season! There’s something calming about mixing ingredients in the right proportions and producing a delicious treat that I can share with my friends and co-workers. These days while focusing on my favorite forms of self-care I realized that baking was one of the ways I took care of myself. Not that eating a whole bunch of cookies is particularly healthy, but I relished the process more so than the finished product. So when I got an invite to the annual Fourth of July party I saw it as an opportunity to reinvigorate this pastime and also provide dessert for everyone.

With July 4th falling in the middle of the week I knew I wouldn’t have time to make anything complicated, so I chose two old, previously posted recipes that I knew would be delicious. Also, I figured there was some leeway in both of them for me to experiment a little. I love the creativity that baking allows me – within reason, of course! So in the berry buttermilk pound cake I used a mix of red raspberries, golden raspberries, and blueberries. The grocery store that I visited in a panic the morning of July 4th had only one package of red raspberries left so I improvised with other fruit. I also added more buttermilk than the original recipe called for – probably an extra 2 Tbsp. The end result was an amazing pound cake that I ate way too many slices of. My second cake was a blueberry upside down cake that I’d made for a Memorial Day get-together a number of years ago. This time I used 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/3 c white sugar, an extra 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and an extra 2 Tbsp buttermilk. I am so glad I made those changes because the cake was absolutely incredible! It was rich, flavorful, and tasted like blueberry cobbler. It’s the perfect summer dessert and everyone at the party loved it.

So will I keep up with my baking as a regular form of self-care? Well, as I mentioned, it’s not exactly the most healthy pastime, but I foresee myself mixing up some sweet treats more often during the second half of 2018. Especially in the fall when Gator football returns! I certainly need to remember that it’s a therapeutic activity that I can easily perform at a moments notice in the comfort of my own home. That is very comforting.

Fourth of July 2016

“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. ‘Mankind.’ That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
President Thomas Whitmore, “Independence Day”

July 4th 2015

“After the races (yes there were several) were over Sarah and I stayed for the parade. Boeing had a float in the procession and we just wanted to see it before we left. The parade started at 10 AM. The sun came out. Two and half hours later the Boeing float lumbered towards us. By that time our rear ends were screaming at us, the sun had burned our exposed skin (even after we applied sunscreen that one woman was kind enough to give us), and at least half of the parade viewers had left. The float was pretty impressive but it was unfortunate for both us and them considering that it was the 315th entry.”
7/4/00 webpage post

Fifteen years ago I participated in the Huntington Beach July 4th 5K for the first time. I was years away from becoming a runner, but my roommate talked me into it. I walked it while she ran, and then we stayed for the parade where we got sunburned. Oops! Luckily by 2015 I was slightly more prepared for the event. There are actually two 5Ks in Huntington Beach every July 4th – one for HB residents and one that’s open to anyone an hour later. I was registered for the open 5K that started at 8 AM. However, in order to increase my weekend mileage I decided to run both races. I realize this is frowned upon in the running community, but I didn’t feel too guilty because the July 4th 5Ks don’t give out finisher medals so the only thing I really got for free was an extra bottle of water. Funny enough, the whole thing was actually free because Boeing was a sponsor so I didn’t have to pay an entry fee at all. Bonus! It was warmer than I would have liked that morning, but at least it was cloudy. Summer hadn’t quite set in yet, but it was close. (And as of mid-October the end date is still to be determined. Ugh.) I enjoyed both of the 5Ks even though I wasn’t exactly speedy in either one. It felt good to get 6.2 miles of running done before 9 AM! On my way home I grabbed a late breakfast at McDonald’s to celebrate as part of my usual post-race ritual. I was invited to a Fourth of July party at a friend’s house that evening and I had promised to bring food. Luckily I had taken advantage of having July 3rd off from work and did all of the cooking and baking then. I was tired after the 5Ks so I actually took a nap! Gotta love holidays. The party was a lot of fun that evening. I took a Crockpot full of chili and two kinds of pound cake with me to share. I spent a lot of time chasing kids around and also being chased around by them as well. At one point I was a Wicked Queen and got locked in a dungeon as punishment. It was a blast. Before the night was over we set off a bunch of fireworks in the driveway, much to the delight of the kids. It was classic ending to a lovely Fourth of July celebration.

Foodie Friday – Dark chocolate brownies

I made these absolutely scrumptious dark chocolate brownies to take to a party on July 4th. I needed something quick and easy to make after I got home from the Huntington Beach 5K that morning. When I saw how few ingredients were in this recipe I was skeptical, but the brownies turned out so great that I ate quite a few before leaving for the party. The chocolate flavor is out of this world! My only complaint is that the brownies were slightly too cake-y for me. I would have preferred for them to be a bit denser, but maybe I’ll try this recipe again with just 1 or 2 eggs. Also, I used softened butter rather than completely melt it. That might have made a difference too. But even though I’d like to tweak a couple of things, this recipe is awesome as is! I’ll definitely be revisiting it again soon!

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 eggs
3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c dark Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1 c chocolate chips (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. You can use an electric mixer, but I usually just use a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and beat/stir until combined. Add the flour and cocoa powder and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, if desired (I left them out). Spread the dough into a 9×9″ or 11×7″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. This makes for easy removal from the pan when the brownies are cool and less dishes to wash later. Bake at 350 deg F for about 25 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Don’t overbake! Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Shugary Sweets’ Perfect Dark Chocolate Brownies.

7/4/14

On Friday my alarm went off at 5 AM. I was running the Huntington Beach July 4th 5K at 8 AM and I wanted to get there early so I parking wouldn’t be difficult. It was still dark when I got out of bed so I didn’t notice the pair of shoes that I left next to my closet the night before. Yes, I did indeed trip over them and fall on my face. Sheesh. I hit my right knee on the ground pretty hard so I laid on the ground for about 10 seconds assessing the damage. I thought to myself, “Am I hurt? What did I injure? Can I still run today?” Luckily I had just bruised the crap out of my knee (as of today it’s a lovely black and blue color) so my running wasn’t affected, but I still felt pretty stupid about nearly killing myself first thing in the morning. After picking myself up off the floor I threw on my running clothes, grabbed everything I needed, and headed down to Huntington Beach. I got there around 6 AM so parking was a snap! While waiting for the race to start I sat in my car, watched “Frozen” on my iPad, and ate my breakfast. Very relaxing. It had been 14 years since the last time I’d participated in the Huntington Beach July 4th race back in 2000. One of my roommates during my first Boeing internship asked me to go with her – I walked the 5K while she ran that year.

“Sarah and I got up at 5:30 AM (which is a half hour earlier than usual for those of you who don’t know what time I get up for work on weekdays). We left the apartment at 6 AM headed for Huntington Beach and the annual Fourth of July 5K race.”
7/4/00 diary entry

My only real goal for the day was to beat my previous 5K time – 34:03 from the Orange County 5K in May. That certainly wasn’t a lofty goal to begin with, but it wouldn’t be easy since it was a warm day. But despite missing the water station because it was crowded and having to take two short walk breaks because I pushed myself too hard, I still finished in 33:53! I only beat my old 5K time by 10 seconds, but I’ll take it. After the race was over I didn’t stay for the parade. It was hot and I felt pretty gross so I went home to take a shower. I fought laziness for quite a while, but then I realized I had to get up off the couch if I wanted to bake something for the party I was going to that afternoon. My first thought was to make chocolate chip cookies or pound cake, but one of my co-workers requested a chocolate dessert so I tried a recipe for dark chocolate brownies using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. Oh my goodness, they were so delicious! I ate way too many, but they were really yummy. I will have to make those brownies again soon and post the recipe too. As soon as the brownies were cool enough to cut I packed them up and took them to the July 4th party. Lots of friends, lots of fun, and lots of food. The perfect summer holiday. I went home before dark so I missed the majority of the fireworks, but it was still a great July 4th. And the best part was that I still had a whole weekend ahead of me! July 4th should be on a Friday every year.

Sunscreen experiment #2 (i.e., Fourth of July)

I had a pretty quiet Fourth of July this year and it was nice. Having another day off this week felt a little strange, but I didn’t question it! I got up this morning and went to the first showing of “Monsters University” at the Block at Orange. I liked it. As far as sequels go I thought it was very good. Now I’ll have to see “Despicable Me 2” for comparison! After the movie I walked around the Block and did some shopping. The holiday sales were great so I didn’t spend very much at all on the few things I bought. On my way home I picked up a sandwich at Jersey Mike’s for lunch because I hadn’t eaten all day and I was starting to feel lightheaded. I ate my lunch at home and then conducted my second sunscreen experiment. This time the subject was Banana Boat SPF 30 Protect & Hydrate. I’m fully aware that you’re supposed to wear sunscreen everyday, but I usually opt to wear long pants and long sleeves rather than worry about slathering greasy sunscreen on my arms and legs when I go outside. I read that the Banana Boat Protect & Hydrate sunscreen feels like regular lotion on your skin so I was looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately it let me down. It didn’t smell terrible like sunscreen usually does, which was nice, and it did feel like lotion on my skin…very heavy lotion. None of the sunscreens that say “absorb quickly” ever actually live up to that promise. At least not on my skin. I am desperate to find decent sun protection that does not leave my skin sticky! But anyway, I applied the Banana Boat sunscreen and took an hour-long walk around my neighborhood. To test the sunscreen I walked on the sunny side of streets and avoided the shade. Unfortunately when I got home it looked like I had gotten some sun on my shoulders. How disappointing! Not only did my skin feel yucky, but it wasn’t completely protected from the sun! Ugh. I have a feeling the Banana Boat Protect & Hydrate sunscreen is going to end up in the kitchen at work with a note saying “Free to a good home.” So that’s how I spent my holiday. It was very relaxing and if I didn’t have so much to do at work I’d take tomorrow off too. Maybe I’ll make it a half day instead. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!